July 2002 Safety Thoughts

Group Riding Skills & Attitudes

by Dave Hansen, Safety Officer

While I wasn't able to attend the July Chapter Meeting (I was on an extended ride of 10+ days in New England - a really nice ride of about 3,200 miles), I do want to address some safety concerns I have based on recent Day Rides & Dinner Rides I've participated in.

During these recent rides, I've had riders behind me in the stagger side of the lane "cross wheels" with me.  What I mean by "crossing wheels" is that the rider behind's front wheel actually is farther down the road than my rear wheel.  That is, the rider behind has actually moved up to a position where he is invading my lane space.  This happens because that rider IS NOT MAINTAINING A ONE SECOND SPACING!!! This is dangerous because if I weren't aware of his position & I swerved to miss a road hazard (dead animal, pot hole, etc), our bikes would make contact & one or both bikes will crash!

Having this happen once could be understood & forgiven if the rider is new to the Chapter & new to group riding.  But when the riders involved have been members for multiple years, have been group riding for multiple years, don't acknowledge the error of their ways & refuse to accept guidance, then the time has come when something must be said loudly & strongly.  (BTW - This one particular rider is one of 3 that blew by me & through a red light on a ride that I was leading a couple years ago - I stopped with plenty of room without running the traffic light, but the next 3 bikes all claimed there wasn't enough time to stop.  This situation was caused by following too closely & not paying attention.  I was extremely lucky no one hit me because bikes were passing me on both sides!)

New members should all get a "New Member" packet from Dennis Deveja that includes a copy of my Group Riding Techniques manual.  That manual is included because we expect all our members to read and follow the group riding techniques described in that book!  This is for your own safety, as well as the safety of others.  

"Copping an attitude" when a Road Captain points out a situation where these group riding techniques are not being followed doesn't work.  If you don't want to adhere to the group riding techniques and policies adopted by the Waterford Chapter, then you should NOT RIDE with the Waterford Chapter.  While you may wish to compromise your own safety, we can not & will not continually compromise the safety of the rest of our membership because of an individual's attitude toward conformity.

Now while the attitude and knowledge issues are fairly easy to address with a "conform or leave" message, the next issue is more complex: we have many motorcycle owners in our Chapter that are not good riders.  When the group make a turn and a rider swings wide on the turn by a full lane because they can't turn any sharper, then it's time for that rider to evaluate what they're doing.  We do want you to ride with us, experience the pleasures of  group riding and establish bonds of friendship that come from group riding, but we must also make that group riding environment as safe as possible.

Each year the Chapter sponsors an MSF Experienced Rider Class that puts 48 members into some really good skills training & improvement situations.  If you haven't taken an MSF class recently, you should.  But don't wait for the Chapter to set up a class.  I have the locations, dates & contacts for the Metro-area MSF classes posted on the Safety Pages.  Look it over & select a class that works for your schedule, sign-up & attend a class.  No excuses.  Do it!  Then get out & practice the maneuvers, turns, starts, stops.  If some particular maneuver is particularly challenging when riding on your own, keep working on it until you have mastered it.  Learning basic riding skills while riding in a group IS NOT A GOOD IDEA!  You should have ALL the basics WELL MASTERED before taking on group riding.

I don't know how to say it better, so here it is: If you don't ride well alone, don't ride with the group.  That doesn't mean you can't participate in Chapter activities, events, or rides.  Meet us at the activity; you'll be welcomed.  Travel your own route if you want.  Travel the same route, but well behind the group if you want.  But MASTER BASIC RIDING SKILLS BEFORE RIDING WITH THE GROUP.


Words of Safety